Taking a look at Kelowna tourism in 2020


Kelowna's tourism numbers for 2020 are in.

There was a slight increase in overnight visitors from 1.8 to 1.9 million but hotels remained 60% empty.

According to Tourism Kelowna President Lisanne Ballantyne “these numbers tell us visitors are not spending their money during the pandemic at hotels and other reports show that short-term rentals like Airbnb’s had a very strong year, actually on par with previous year or even higher. This tells us that future recovery work must focus on dispersing revenue not only throughout our four seasons but among the wide variety of accommodators and businesses we have here.”

91% of Kelowna's visitors are Canadians.

The majority come from the Mainland, 16% come from Alberta and more than half are repeat visitors.

A survey by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association shows around 85% of local businesses accessed some kind of government support in 2020.

Around 23% of operators were closed at any given point.

Ballantyne said it is unclear how many businesses closed permanently.

“Many of our restaurants pulled back on hours and closed temporarily this winter and we are watching the hotels carefully. To date we have not heard of any of our major accommodators in that dire or circumstance but we know from our ongoing discussions with stakeholders they are all still struggling and if we're fortune to have a busy summer they're also going to struggle on the staff side.”

Kelowna suffered major economic losses due to the cancellation of major events last year including the Tim Horton's Brier, the Memorial Cup and the World Curling championships.

Estimated accommodation tax revenue was down $1.42 million.

This year, 75% of local business are forecasting a drop in spring revenue.

“Right now local tourism businesses are not expected to see revenues beginning to return until this summer and their ability to recover lost revenues to date remains uncertain. The good news is that Kelowna is well positioned with our domestic travel market for an earlier tourism recovery than other parts of BC that are much more dependant of international and group travel,” said Ballantyne.

Numbers from Destination BC show 62% of residents feel safe travelling to nearby communities and 77% are comfortable visiting a beach.